A Kansas magistrate judge known for sanctioning a raid on the Marion County Record, likened by some to “Gestapo-style” tactics, reportedly has a history of two DUIs, causing concerns about how this may have influenced her decision-making.
The judge in question, Laura Viar, authorized a police raid on the newspaper based on allegations that it had unlawfully obtained DUI information about a local entrepreneur.
Viar, who served as the Eighth Judicial District magistrate judge, allegedly completed a program after her DUI arrest in Coffey County in 2012 and was arrested again seven months later for a DUI in Morris County.
In the second incident, Viar, then recognized as Laura Allen, was driving a judge’s vehicle when she lost control and hit a shed near a football field in Council Grove. It was also stated in a 2012 report that she had a suspended license at the time.
Due to a lack of evidence, the Marion County Record’s warrant was withdrawn.
Ensey highlighted that the warrant failed to “establish a legal connection between the alleged crime and the evidence seized and the places searched.” Equipment such as the newspaper’s cell phones, computers, and reporting materials were confiscated from the office and the publisher’s home, causing one reporter to suffer a finger injury.
Eric Meyer, owner of Marion County Record, expressed the distress caused by the raid, including the death of his 98-year-old mother, a veteran journalist, from stress following the intrusion. The woman had reportedly been in good health before the event.
The raid was initially prompted by Kari Newell, a 46-year-old restaurant owner, who accused the newspaper of illegally procuring information about her DUI, potentially jeopardizing her liquor license application. Though the Marion County Record never published the story, an anonymous individual had leaked the documents.
Meyer believes the raid might have been influenced by the newspaper’s investigation into the new Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody over sexual misconduct allegations rather than the DUI details related to Newell.
Upon investigating the incident, Meyer found inconsistencies, including the late filing of a probable cause affidavit and the officers’ failure to seize the DUI documents during the raid.
He asserted his belief that the raid was more about the paper’s investigation into Cody, calling it “just speculation, oddities about what’s going on here.” The equipment taken has since been returned, and Meyer stated that the small newspaper team will continue its work as usual.
In reflecting on the incident, Meyer emphasized that the situation has only strengthened their resolve, stating they would not be intimidated by bullying.
He further said, “You cannot let bullies win. We have a very experienced staff, including myself, and we won’t take crap.” Despite the challenging incident, the newspaper has seen increased subscriptions and continues to operate undeterred.